The Chicago Cubs have been without their starting shortstop since August 2, and although they’ve had an admirable replacement in Javy Baez, it cannot be questioned that the overall infield defense has suffered in Russell’s absence.
So, what’s the deal, and when will he be back?
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer shined a little bit more light on the injury, explaining that the foot injury is muscular, and involves a “little bit of plantar fasciitis” (Tribune). Against that backdrop, the uncertain timetable for Russell’s original absence and his return now make a lot more sense, since plantar fasciitis is not the kind of issue that has a clear onset, cool down, recovery period, etc. Hoyer said it’s gotten better, but it’s still not at a place where you don’t fear a setback – which, if I remember correctly about this issue, can be common.
To that end, Hoyer said a return for Russell “is not imminent.” (Cubs.com) Given that he’ll now need a rehab assignment before coming back, it’s really hard to say when we’ll see him back in the Cubs’ lineup. It could be a matter of a few days, or it could be a “let’s just wait until rosters expand in September” kind of thing. I certainly don’t know, and I’m not sure the Cubs know with confidence at this point. The discomfort simply has to recede enough for Russell to play normally and not risk a setback.
So, until then, Javy Baez will continue playing shortstop, and Ben Zobrist, Ian Happ, and Tommy La Stella will continue manning second base.
For what it’s worth, I kind of hope La Stella draws more starts with this vacancy in the infield. Consider that he hit .270/.357/.405 (106 wRC+) in part-time duty last year, and is hitting a whopping .313/.422/.493 (141) in part-time duty this year. Consider further that his glove, while not above average, hardly seems worse at second base at this point than Zobrist or Happ. On many teams, La Stella has already been given a shot to be a regular. On the Cubs, he is understandably not going to get that shot. But with an injury in the middle infield, and with slumps for Zobrist and Happ, maybe La Stella should get that shot here in the short-term.